Revision in Business Writing
Not many writers are able to express themselves
clearly and effectively in a first draft. You may be able
to write quite quickly and easily with little or not revision
for short, routine business communication. However, for most
longer, more complex letters and reports—you should
expect to revise, sometimes substantially, to be sure
you've said exactly what you meant to say in way that
the reader will understand.
Think about your readers
If you send out the first draft of
your letter or report, you are not serving your readers well.
Not only are you running the risk that readers may
misinterpret or be confused by what you have to say, but you
are also risking your readers' low opinion of you and your
writing: careless, hasty, unrevised writing is always apparent.
Assuming the role of reader
You have to distance yourself from
your writing if you want to revise effectively. You need to
be able to shift your perspective from writer to that of reader.
To accomplish that, you need to step away
from the writing, if possible leaving it for a day or more.
You may not have the luxury of that amount of time but you
can put the writing aside while you grab a bite to eat, or
work on something else. Unless you distance yourself from
the writing, you will see only what you think is on the page
instead of what is actually there. A bit of time allows you
to shift perspective from writer to that
Achieving distance from your writing can be difficult;
however, the following questions should help you be more systematic
as you revise your writing and at the same time help you
keep your reader in mind as you decide on appropriate detail,
language, tone, organization and, lastly, correctness.
What to Include - Detail
- What is my purpose for writing this piece?
- Why might a reader be interested in my message/argument?
- What does my reader need to know to understand my argument?
- Have I given adequate information for readers to follow
- Does my writing answer the reader's potential questions?
- Have I included ONLY the material essential to my reader's
purpose and understanding? Have I included unessential and/or
Aiming for Conciseness and Clarity - Language
- Have I considered my readers' prior knowledge?
- Have I poured out ideas and facts too rapidly for the
- Have I been concise?
- Are my words vague instead of concrete?
here for examples.
Tailoring Language to Your Audience - Tone
- Was I helpful and informative?
- Does my message/argument take into account the reader's
- Am I writing directly to the reader?
- Does the writing avoid talking down to readers?
- Is the writing positive?
- If I've included controversial ideas have I framed them
as arguments and not as assertions?
here for examples.
Fitting the Form to Message and Audience - Organization
- Have I considered the reader's reaction to my message?
- Have I used a direct approach beginning with the main
idea and folowing with necessary explanation?
- Have I used an indirect approach providing detail before
resenting my main thesis?
- Is the argument logical?
- Have I provided connections/transitions between sections
of the argument?
Using Conventional Grammar, Spelling, and
Punctuation - Correctness
Once you're done, you should
now read through your final drafts carefully—looking
for the errors which you frequently commit. Slowly read
through your writing once for EACH of these errors so that
you can clean up the writing.
Click here for help with dealing with correctness.